Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Too Many Empty Rooms.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door.” OK, I get it… but lately, I’m having trouble with what’s on the other side of most doors. The better mousetrap used to be “the thing,” now the mania is all about the path. Silly I say…

I’m in the business of branding. When I say branding, I’m referring to the naming, identifying, positioning, and promises presented by business entities. You know; what they do for their customers, partners, and constituents. Done well, branding affects culture, economics, psyche, and the competitive landscape itself. The American Marketing Association (AMA) says “…branding is not about getting your target market to choose you over the competition, it’s about getting your prospects to see you as the only one that provides a solution to their problem.” This is my job.

I’m not a geezer, but there was a day when my job consisted of ideas and a sketchpad. Now I use tools. Lots of tools -- and most of them electronic. There are still some age-old tools like newspaper, mail (of the paper kind,) and television (ain’t it funny how TV seems age-old these days,) but most of what I use lives inside my laptop -- which connects to millions of other computers all over the world. The Internet has become king in the race for brand dominance, and my go-to weapons to fight in the battle mostly consists of things like social media and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) where algorithms and patterns, at times, are considered more valuable than ideas. Mind you, this is not the voice of a cranky old-school ad guy. I really love the new challenges and frontiers in successfully positioning a company, but I believe that many businesses will fail in their mission if they swap foundational marketing principles for the secret sauce of social media and the like. Think of these new modern tools more like a condiment, and less like a meal. The main dish, after all these years, is still the brand. Prove it? The world’s largest corporations continue to recognize their respective brands as their greatest asset (Coca Cola’s brand is ranked third after Google and Microsoft at nearly $70 billion dollars*).

So here’s my gripe: some companies fail to realize that getting the highest rankings in Google does not equate to selling the most products or gaining the most customers. Amassing the most Fans on a Facebook page may, in the end, only serve to grow the corporate ego. And followers on Twitter? You could probably get more business benefits from a real-life stalker if your efforts aren’t targeted to align with your brand strategy. Oh, and an added danger: many organizations get so wrapped up around the statistical victories (or losses) of their web 2.0 efforts that they take their eye off the ball and forget what’s really important… serving their customer, not the search engine.

Although I know that industry types will disagree, the web tools of today are (mostly) tactical – not strategic. I confess, you can lead more people to your door today than ever before, but if your visitor finds an empty room when the door swings open, they will not enter in.

No business can ignore the power of digital media, but invest in your organization’s brand first. There’s no better welcome mat, and no better way to make sure that visitors do more than just ring your doorbell and run.

The Third Annual BrandZ Top 100 - Millward Brown Optimor

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